Don’t fight the Mac OS X Dock – make it work for you

Do you want to use the Dock the way it was meant to be used or do you want to fight it forever?

If you’re a lover, not a fighter, and ignoring one of the most useful organizational tools any OS has ever presented to ordinary users strikes you as a waste, drag your hard drive icon into the right side of the dock and leave it there. Forever. Apple should ship all Macs this way, by the way. Are you listening Cupertino?

With your hard drive now safely tucked in the Dock, just click and hold on the hard drive icon to get a hierarchical menu of everything on your Mac or click the hard drive icon once to open it up in a Finder window. Then you can turn off “Show hard disks on the desktop” in the Finder’s Preferences if you like. (If you are a long time Mac user, you may not be able to bring yourself to do this, so leave the hard drive icon on the desktop, too, if you can’t bear it not being there.) We know we can’t do it; our hard drive icons are all in the dock and on the desktop, too. We do have one machine without hard drives on the desktop. We’re slowly getting used to it and can see the day when we’d actually consider turning off the desktop hard drive icons! Oh, the humanity!

With you hard drive’s icon in the dock, it will always be accessible no matter what. And, for Steve’s sake, turn OFF Magnification in the Dock and make the Dock as small as possible – the text labels of the icons should be enough to identify the icons, if you can’t seem to remember which icon is which. Without magnification, it’s a lot easier to click a static icon than trying to click a moving target all day long. If, rather than fighting it, you embrace the Dock (Classic Mac users seem to have the most Dock issues) Mac OS X will seem a lot quicker and productive.

See the Mac OS X Dock in action and learn more about the Dock here.

MacDailyNews Note: This piece is a reworked article based on a piece from October 2002 and is posted today as a public service for all those still walking around with their overly-giant Mac OS X Docks empty of hard drive icons and set to maximum magnification.


  1. Dock as small as possible ? Bollocks. Just don’t have it huge.

    Magnification off ? Nah. Turn magnification on, but have the magnified setting just a little bigger. You get good visual feedback, but the icons stay pretty static.

    As for drives on the desktop ? Get rid of them now ! You don’t need them on the desktop where they’re likely to be buried under a window anyway. Personally I have my apps, utils and documents folders in the dock rather than the drives.

    Though really you should work however suits you and not the way MDN (or anyone else, including me) tells you.

    It IS worth trying this stuff though. I think MDN mentioned switching off the desktop drives YEARS ago, and they’ve never made it back to mine. There’s just no need.

  2. Magnification is worthless eye candy that makes clicking quickly harder, not easier. Why do you need to see the icon? You need just enough icon to be able to click on it. Mac OS tells you what it is with words as you roll over the icon. MDN is correct. Power users do it exactly as MDN describes, but without the drives on the Desktop (I can understand the psychological reluctance to removing drives from the Dekstop as a Mac user since 1986).

  3. Not…I need magnification…
    If you have a large screen (Cinema), you can loose track of your cursor (especially when it’s a very small cross-hair in Photoshop). When lost, throw the mouse down to the dock and see which icon is enlarged, there’s your cursor.
    ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”grin” style=”border:0;” />

  4. Desktop? What’s that? You know, I’m sure my drives are still on my desktop, but with Panther’s sidebar and column view I never even look at the desktop.

  5. I agree that everyone should downsize the dock, turn on auto-hide and turn off magnification. That bugs me when I walk into a Comp USA and the docks on the demo machines are huge and always showing. Then when you mouse over them and the icons magnify, they cover almost 1/4 of the screen! I’ve also had my HD in the right side of the dock for some time now and yes, everyone should do this as well since it makes everything easily accessible. There is no absolutely no need to have 50 or more icons in your dock, only put the apps that you use on an everyday basis in there. If you do all of these things you’ll be surprised how clean it keeps your desktop.

  6. You can tell by just the first three posts that there isn’t one “right” way to work. Each has their own needs and environment. To each their own.

  7. If you have a G4 or higher, I don’t see why you wouldn’t use magnification, its so cool. Yes, it sucks to have it on full, I just set it slightly larger than the static size, so its just a bit of a bump when I rollover. But, the more stuff you get down in the dock, the less sexy the magnification is.
    And it sucks on 500mhz G3 ibooks

  8. George,

    Throw your mouse down to the Dock and instead of seeing worthless magnification, take note of which icon’s text pops up. If your icons are as small as possible, you’ll actually be MORE accurate in finding your cursor.

  9. I put my most frequently used app icons down there, and then of course the app folder for the occasional times i need quick access to another app, like calculator or terminal. I also put my hard drive and iDisk down there, and have nothing on my desktop except for my frequently used folder, whatever im working on for the day. I also have my main work folder where i store everything in the dock, cuz its so easy, its like multiple start menus, something that Windows will probably never have from what I have seen of longhorn.

    Apple needs to show Switchers that they can easily gain back the start menu by utilizing the doc, not just expecting power users to figure it all out and push low end users to do it as well.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.